Ministry: adjusting to life on-line

James Copestake writes:

We reflected last week on our experience of meeting for worship over the last year through the medium of Zoom. For some it has been a revelation, for others less so.

Being transported into each other’s rooms is no longer a novelty, and for some the sense of loss of physical presence has grown with time. But it is easy to emphasize the differences between the two sets of experiences, rather than to reflect on what has remained the same. This includes shared values: mutual respect, patience, appreciation of silence, knowing those present will not rush to judge. It includes the sense of coming together, of groping towards a shared sense of being in the world, and thereby being less alone.

And there’s the opportunity to be moved to speak in that distinctive way that gave Quakers their name – through a spiritual and emotional experience that can literally be spine-tingling. One of the conditions for this is the presence of others in the moment. Whether in the same room, or over the internet, our testimonies invade a time that is unique, jointly created and valued, and hence precious to fill.

We reflected also on how experience of a collective migration from one medium to another can be likened to the experience people have had of other migrations in life – from moving house or job to seeking refuge in another country. After the move, the perspectives we gained from being in one place can be seen afresh – literally from the outside – from another place. And from the comparisons we make from being in the two places perhaps we can better imagine still more perspectives, and better appreciate the complexity of one world that can be experienced in so many ways.

It would perhaps be too much to go through every hour of the day as if it was a Quaker meeting for workshop. But the new experience of virtual Quaker meetings over the last year, compared to what went before, invites more than just reflection – it invites an openness to experiment more with ‘living in the light’ in all kinds of other situations too.

Bath Quakers have been adjusting to Meeting for Worship online for a year now.

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